published Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Historic 11th Street building receives modern upgrade

Audio clip

Greg Vital

Betty Shelton has trouble concentrating in her downtown office, which sits on the first floor of the historic Custom House.

"The windows rattle every time a truck goes down the street," said Ms. Shelton, who is the deputy-in-charge of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the 116-year-old Chattanooga landmark on East 11th Street.

She is hopeful the distraction will end once a $500,000 upgrade is complete.

The Custom House, which houses the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, is getting new energy-efficient windows that building owner Greg Vital, president of Custom House Realty Partners, said should be completed in about a month.

"It's a little bit bigger than your normal house," he said, noting that about 460 windows will be replaced with modern, energy-efficient glass.

"It's about a four- to six-week project," he said,

Mr. Vital bought the building in 2003 from the Tennessee Valley Authority for $2.1 million and this year renewed the lease with the U.S. General Services Administration to continue housing the Bankruptcy Court through at least 2024.

  • photo
    Custom House high energy windows contributed photo

The energy-efficient windows are a part of Mr. Vital's agreement with the GSA to maintain the upkeep of the building.

"Buildings like that need occasional rehab," he said. "This is part of a plan to keep them in top shape."

Workers from Ross Glass in Chattanooga have been installing the windows on the weekends and in the evenings to prevent distractions in the courtrooms, Mr. Vital said.

Ms. Shelton said the old structure, which is protected by Cornerstones, a local preservations group, is often hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but the new windows should change that.

"This will help with the heat and air as well as with the sound," she said.

Mr. Vital agreed that the update was necessary.

"Not only will this give us energy efficiency but also will give us added protection, and hopefully this is done for the next 30 years," he said.

The building served as Chattanooga's first federal building and housed the local post office. It later housed offices for the Tennessee Valley Authority and then returned to use by the federal government's Bankruptcy Court.

Historical records indicate the structure was designed by William A. Freret and was featured in a 1934 issue of The Architectural Record.

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senyahc said...

Beautiful building, wonderful masonry. it stands out, too bad it is used for Bankruptcy court. Who could enjoy it when they are having their lives torn up?

August 4, 2009 at 7:05 a.m.
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